Bollywood's 'grand old man' AK Hangal passes away at 97

A K HangalA K Hangal, known as the grand old man of Hindi cinema passed away yesterday aged 97.  A veteran of more than 225 films, he breathed his last in the morning at Asha Parekh hospital in Vile Parle, following a brief illness aggravated by a fracture of his thigh bone.

Bollywood actors like Rakesh Bedi and Raza Murad and friends like Ila Arun were present for the last rites of the man who had dedicated his life to theatre, cinema and social issues.

A number of theatre enthusiasts posted comments on social networking sites and one lamented that another acting academy had shut down.

Hangal was known for the finesse with which he played roles of senior characters in the film industry. His roles  in Sholay, Namak Haram and Shuakeen were particularly notable, with his one-line from Sholay,  Itna sannata kyon hain bhai, achieving near cult status.

Hangal who swore by leftist philosophy had to depend on Bollwood to help him fight illness in his last days. He believed that the state needed to help senior citizens. Failing health however did not keep Hangal away from Kleig lights and his son Vijay said he even shot a small scene for the TV serial Madhubala.

Hangal came to the film industry rather late, switching roles after he started out as a tailor. He got associated with left-leaning film and theatre personalities like Balraj Sahni, Sardar Jafri and Kaifi Azmi, who persuaded him to act. He made his debut in the film industry at the age of 50 with Basu Bhattacharya's Teesri Kasam.
Vocal about his political views, Hangal faced a ban on his film career after the Shiv Sena objected to his  attending a function organised by the Pakistan consulate in Mumbai in the 1990s. He was a Communist Party of India member and continued to renew his membership every year.